Our 1982 European Adventure Great Britain and Ireland
Great Britain and Ireland The driving holiday or a way to see every Castle in Great Britain and Ireland and also the places made famous by Monopoly and then Brideshead Revisited, Poldark, Robin Hood, Boys Own books and a few others which had captured Linda and my interest. But this trip had future touchpoints that even I could not have fathomed at the time. One was the visit to Crail in Scotland and the ancestral home of the Crail Elders. The other was the chance meeting with Lindas’ Irish relatives. But I get ahead of myself, first…. Overnight in Edinburgh We picked up the Yellow hatchback and drove out of London and onto the motorway. What a buzz. I was hooting along when Linda broke into my concentration and said why don’t we get off this and see a bit of England. So the next off ramp signposted Nottingham and that started the real interest in choosing changes that took us in different direction to the main flow. Now this would not alter the main plan, but we were driving without smart phones and relying on our largish guidebook which highlighted major attractions and places to stay. But you could not call ahead, so it was stop, talk to the B&B owners and see if a bed was available. So, Nottingham for lunch and a walk around and then it was off to Castle Howard made famous by Brideshead Revisited. It was immediately apparent, that the pre-purchase of the Open to view voucher would enable us to see things well past our budget if going separately. After a tour around and through the house, it was off to Edinburgh. First up on arrival, we sought out our B&B for the night. We found the first of many lovely folk who rented rooms in their homes. When she asked where we had come from, we mentioned London and to which she replied, what all that way in one day? We were also told if we wanted a bath, to only go to the plimsol line marked in the bath , which was about 4 inches deep. There we saw Greyfriars Bobby, a charming tale about a Skye Terrier who legend says, spent 14 years guarding his masters grave. Finally, off to Edinburgh Castle where they hold the Military Tattoo. During the tour, we remarked as to where they held the Tattoo. In the car park was his reply. It was hard to reconcile that sloping carpark with the TV replays.
Overnight near Crail What a big first day. In the morning our hostess asked what we would like for Breakfast. First mistake, After the Contiki tour and European breakfasts, I eagerly asked if we could have an English breakfast. She replied no, they only do a Scottish breakfast which was similar but better. Note to self. After breakfast, it was off to Crail and the ancestral home of the Elders. Here we spent a bit of time in the church cemetery and found out that Elders were still living here, but were out that day with a visit to Edinburgh. So an hour of so, thinking back to those times when it was decided to emigrate to Australia. Then it was off to St Andrews and that famous golf course. No time however to hit a ball.
Overnight in Inverness
The next day it was then across to Brigadoon country “once upon a time, in the highlands of Scotland” and the highland cattle. What magnificent beasts. The trip north then finished at John ‘o Groats. At this point, I myself was now starting to feel sick so it was a quick drive back down to Inverness. We found this B&B that had multiple room and, dare I say it, Brynylon sheets that felt terrible. I was not in the mood to worry about it.
Overnight in Drumnadrochit We set off in the morning still feeling pretty bad and found this B&B in Drumnadrochit, nestling on the top of Loch Ness and the wonderful McIntosh’s. They had two children our ages who had gone off to Australia, so we were welcomed in. Mr. M took pity on me and offered me some of his special single malt scotch, which as you may know was not my favourite drink. He said it would fix me up. Well it did and I never felt better as I rose the next day. The place was beautiful, on the shores of the loch and with this large field behind then before the forest on the hill. Mrs M spoke fondly of the badgers who would come down and dig in her garden.
Overnight in Stirling After a sad goodbye we went down to the Loch shore to view Urquhart Castle. Once one of Scotland’s largest castles, Urquhart saw great conflict during its 500 years as a medieval fortress. Control of the castle passed back and forth between the Scots and English during the Wars of Independence. Then it was driving down the Loch with many fine houses and Castles, such as the beautifull Eilan Donnen. The conditions were perfect for mirrored photos. My opinion, looking into the black waters of the loch it is easy to believe that creatures exist. Anyway, we did a hard left at fort William and heading east to Stirling and Stirling castle where Linda’s relations were related to the sheriffs. But Robert the Bruce was immortalised as was Rob Roy.
Overnight in Blackpool From Stirling, we headed south through Gretna green and the old blacksmiths shop and stopped for a look at Hadrian’s Wall. Hadrian's Wall, also called the Roman Wall, Picts' Wall, or Vallum Hadriani in Latin, is a former defensive fortification of the Roman province of Britannia, begun in AD 122 in the reign of the emperor Hadrian. One wonders why England could not fathom it, when the Romans tried so hard to separate themselves from the Northern folk. And then it was into Blackpool and the Illuminations.
Overnight in St. Davids. Leaving Blackpool, we arrived in Chester for lunch. It was a pretty town with a lot of character. Tudor building still housing many merchants. Before we bunked down for the night, we visited two more castles Conwy Castle in Wales and Caernarvan Castle. Driving towards Llangurig, we passed through Betws-y-Coed and a fly fisherman in the black rushing waters. Betws-y-coed in English meant Prayer House in the Wood, is a village and community in the Conwy valley in Conwy County Borough, Wales. Llangurig is the ancestral home of some of the Floyd family (my mothers side) Caernarfon Castle – often anglicised as Carnarvon Castle or Caernarvon Castle – is a medieval fortress in Caernarfon, Gwynedd. And then on to St David’s and the Bishops Palace which is a ruined medieval palace located adjacent to St Davids Cathedral. St David was the ferry terminal across to Rosslaire in Ireland. We planned a quick 3 days to see the Blarney castle, Waterford crystal and some of the countryside and hopefully to locate Lindas’ relatives.
Ferry across to Rosslare and overnights in Waterford and Kilkenny. Despite going on a number of ferries in the Mediterranean, nothing would prepare us for the Irish Sea. The 4 hour trip took 6 hours and the boat had to keep tacking to cope with the large swells. We survived and soon found our feet in Ireland. So off we went to see the Emerald Isle. The Waterford Crystal factory was amazing and well worth the visit. Following on we visited Blarney Castle and around now the weather gods said you have had it too good for long enough. Driving rain and winds. So it became our companions as we drove around country lanes overgrown with hedgerows and thistles. So much so that you could not see beyond the road. But we passed gypsies in the caravans on the side of the road, huge pile of sugar beet and the milkman still driving his horse and cart. It was and is an amazing place. And now this brings me to the second unexpected event.
The Relatives in Bagnelstown. Before we left home, Linda had been given an address of the relatives who had remained in Ireland. We were not sure if it was the town, street or place. However, we set out early from Kilkenny and searched. When we thought we were not making any further progress, Linda would send me into a pub for directions. Often, the reply would be in that heavy Irish brogue and unfathomable and I would return to the car no wiser. So next decision point, I sent Linda in. When she came out she said, she did not have a clue what they said. But through sign language, and a lot of luck, we eventually drove into this farm house. We knocked on the door and this little lady (Aunt Mary) opened the door. Linda tried to explain herself but once inside, she saw a photo of her Grandad’s wedding. She said that was her folk. Well, we all broke down when Mary started crying and hugging Linda. Kathleen her daughter and Martin her son also came out and soon the nearby relatives all showed up. It was an amazing reunion. However, we could not stay long as we had a ferry to catch so we shared addresses and promises to keep in touch. And with that we were gone. (since then Kathleen, Martin and Brenda and family and other relatives have been out to visit us in Australia. Our children have been back and Linda and I went back to Ireland for a wonderful 2 months in 2018. It is a strong bond we all share. I felt and still feel like one of the family. All from that first trip. Then it was off to the Ferry at Rosslaire. I had mentioned the bad weather, and there was still a force 9 gale blowing up the Irish Sea. I asked the official if they ever cancelled the ferry, to which he replied “only with mechanical failure” You may recall the 4 hour ride took 6 on the way over, well this took 9 hours to get back. The boat was tipping so badly that the chairs were falling over, bottles were falling off the bar. People were sea sick everywhere. We had to go up top to get away from the smell. But on one tipping, the whole boat shuddered and with that the boat turned 90 degrees and straight into the storm and sailed south until it could manoeuvre across the straights and then turn around to finally head north to the St Davids terminal. I was never so glad to set foot on dry land.
Overnight in Bath So, there we are driving madly through Wales and feeling lucky to be alive. We stopped at Sudeley Castle and then on to Warwick Castle. The Castle was interesting with a combination of old ruins and new restorations. From there it was a quick trip to Stratford on Avon for Anne Hathaway’s and Shakespeare’s homes. Then it was off to Blenheim Palace/Castle in Oxford and the magnificent gardens designed by Capability Brown. Christopher Wren designed the building and it was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. We were getting excited as today we would also visit the chalk horse, a notable carving in the hills. It was listed in the book. However, they did not mention that to get to it, involved a hike across fields and hills and then when you get their you realise that you need to be a bird to appreciate it. Oh Well, it was the start of our love of walking. And it wasn’t a half bad day.
Finally we arrived in Bath and visited the Roman baths (what else would you have done?)
Overnight in Charmouth -aka a day in Cornwall Stonehenge, that mythical place that determines our daylight-saving times. In 1982, there were no fences and once parking the car, we could walk right up to the stones. Then down to the giants Causeway, the steep seaside town of Clovelly. We kept to the coast and then next point of interest was Tintagel, the mythical home of King Arthur. Then on to Penzance, but did not see any pirates. Saint Michaels Mount was next. It was only later when researching the Skellig Islands for our Ireland visit in 2018, that we realised the Saint Michael's line is a postulated ley line connecting monasteries dedicated to the Archangel Michael in Europe and in the Middle East. The aligned monasteries include Skelling Michael (Ireland), St Michael's Mount in Cornwall (UK), Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy (France), Sacra di San Michele (Italy), Chiesa di San Galgano (Italy), Tempio di San Michele di Perugia (Italy), Santuario di San Michele del Gargano (Italy), Delphi (Greece), Island of Delos (Greece), Symi (Greece), Kourion (Cyprus), and Mount Carmel (Israel). Believe it if you will or not.
Then Lands End. The feeling here is quite different to John ‘o Groats. There you could feel the top of the world. Here it was just the vast emptiness of the Atlantic Ocean. Not a place I would care to swim. The Dartmoor ponies were next before we headed down to Sidmouth and then Lime Regis (and the cob featured in the movie, the French Lieutenants’ Woman), before we overnighted in neighbouring Charmouth.
A trip to Brighton (well Hastings then) It was a driving day today. The main stops were Aspinall’s Deer Park. Then Leeds Castle But we tried to get a B&B in Brighton, but the owner told us he was closed for the winter. He was hosing his front garden and I am sure he did not mean to hose us. He was just telling us to move further on to see if any one else was open. Fortunately, a B&B was open in Hastings and we settled in. much to Linda’s chagrin, the TV was playing the first Star Wars which I appreciated at least. Sitting down that night, we plotted out the remaining things we wanted to see – Cambridge and Oxford and Winchester as well as the Otter Trust near Bangor. So, it was doable.
Overnight in Oxford We left early for the Otter Trust and what a great visit. These lovable creatures were being helped and rehabilitated for release back into the wild. I googled it for this activity and its is still going strong. Then to Cambridge and its stately buildings. Finally, Oxford. Now by this late stage of the season, not a lot was still open. Try as we might, we could not find any where to eat. We settled for Mars Bars, potato chips and cokes. Oh Well. Our last B&B Winchester Today we visited Windsor Castle and Hampton Court and walked through Richmond (Kings) Park.
And then it was over, the next day we would hand back the car and find Mrs Thomas. She was a grand aunt of our mate back at work in Brisbane. And we had arranged a 2 week stay in her flat.
Wandsworth. After dropping off the car, we bundled all our gear into a cab and drove out to the address we had been given. On arrival, Mrs Thomas was very apologetic but her room had been let out. But not one to let that concern her. She asked us to stay for dinner and then rang up a friend Erena Bala, who lived just around the road, and could put us up in their loft. So once again, good things still happen. Mrs Thomas was a great host and dinner was sumptuous as was the fortified wine. We quickly settled into the rhythm of life in London. We would walk up to the subway and do something and return each night. It was a great time as we visited the monopoly sites and the royal areas. Our only blemish was that one morning, we slept in and by the time we got into the town they were pulling down the barricades. When asked what had happened, The opening of Parliament with all its pageantry and presence of the Queen and royal family (now I am not putting too much emphasis of Linda’s fondness of the Royal family) she was mightily disappointed. Week one came and went, the leaves on the tree in the backyard were falling steadily as the back neighbour mowed his 10m2 back yard over that whole time. Then week 2 was over. But one more story. As you might know, in those days you had travellers’ cheques, and personal cheques that you could tender (but that was not easy/possible outside of Australia). So, when the travellers cheques ran down, that was it, unless it could be wired from home. I kept a strict budget so we were not caught out. There was still a possibility of having to pay excess luggage as we had picked up a few additional items along the way and we still had 3 days in Hong Kong. But it was going OK until…. We were outside of one of the main buildings, I believe it was the Tower of London and Linda commented on this monkey that was chattering around. Well before you could say Jack Rabbit, it had climbed up onto Linda’s shoulder and the attendant had produced a camera from his coat and took a photo. That would be 10 quid please. I tried to tell him that I did not want the photo, but he was insistent. Then I said that we were flying home the next day and could not wait for the print. He said, no worries, he would post it to Australia. Well I handed it over with our handwritten address, saying that was the first type of that thing to happen to us in the whole 3 months so that was not bad. We just excused ourselves from lunch that day. PS. When we arrived home and probably a week later, we got this letter. In it was our photo. Erena was the perfect hostess. We enjoyed their company immensely. Then, Erena drove us to the Airport.
The flat in Wandsworth. We had the top 3rd floor attic. Over the two weeks we were there, the last of the leaves fell from the backyard tree.